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Aconcagua (the 'normal route')

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Aconcagua is the highest mountain outside the Himalaya and a much sought-after prize. Extreme altitude and weather conditions make it a major objective for experienced mountaineers and a high altitude trekkers, despite its moderate technical difficulties.

The usual approach is from the south via the Quebrada de los Horcones to the Plaza de Mulas base camp at 4365m. From here, 3 routes start: the 'normal route' via the Horcones Glacier Superior and North East Ridge, the West Buttress route and the South-West route. We'll be going for the normal route.

There's no point in playing-down the physical and mental challenges of climbing Aconcagua. This is not a trek. It is a long, exhausting (and sometimes monotonous) mountaineering expedition... a huge step-up from climbing peaks such as Kilimanjaro and Orizaba. Conditions tend to be far harsher than on other 'popular' high mountains and the summit day is very long and very strenuous. Expect to be pushed to the limit.

It makes sense for aspirant Aconcagua climbers to have served an apprenticeship on other high mountains before taking-up the challenge. Whilst it is possible for inexperienced climbers to make it to the summit, the success rate is low. Those who are able to fall back on several years experience of climbing at high altitude, are self sufficient, familiar with the use of crampons and an axe and aware of how they fare at high altitude are far more likely to be successful.

Aconcagua candidates should:

  • Have a high level of mental and physical fitness, determination and experience of high altitude trekking and mountaineering in extremely cold, windy and arid conditions.
  • Be capable of load-carrying between camps. Expect to carry about 15KG's.
  • Be competent in the use of ice axe and crampons.
  • Be comfortable 'surviving' for long periods of time at high altitude and in harsh conditions. You should be aware of the associated health and hygiene implications and be able to look after yourself.


 

Part 1: Plaza de Mulas (4300m) - Plaza Canada (5050m). 3 - 4 hours. 750m height gain.

Follow a well defined but steep and rocky path.

Part 2: Plaza Canada - Nido de Condores (5550m). 4 - 5 hours. 500m height gain.

The rocky path continues past the 5000m stone, Cambio de Pendiente and Cerro Manso to reach Nido de Cóndores.

Part 3: Nido de Condores - Refugio Berlin (5930m). 3 - 4 hours. 380m height gain.

This is a short stretch, but the altitude really starts to kick in and progress is slow.

Part 4: Refugio Berlin - Summit (6962m). 7 - 10 hours. 1032m height gain.

EXTREMELY demanding. Expect high winds and very low temperatures. Crampons often needed.

The main challenge is the infamous Canaleta a steep, scree slope which is encountered at high altitude when physical and mental toughness is being tested to the limit. Progress often becomes extremely slow here. Beyond the Canaleta…lies the summit!

 

Day 1: Arrive in Mendoza
Day 2: Transfer from Mendoza to the lodge at Puente de Inca
Day 3: Climb from Puente de Inca to Confluencia camp
Day 4: Acclimatization Climb, Confluencia Camp to Plaza Francia and return to Confluencia camp.
Day 5: Climb from Confluencia Camp to Plaza de Mulas
Day 6: Rest day at Plaza de Mulas
Day 7: Acclimatization climb & portage: Climb from Plaza de Mulas to Plaza Canada carrying loads. Return to Plaza de Mulas*
Day 8: Climb from Plaza de Mulas to Plaza Canada
Day 9: Acclimatization climb & portage: Climb from Plaza Canada to Nido de Condores carrying loads. Return to Plaza Canada*
Day 10: Climb from Plaza Canada to Nido de Condores
Day 11: Acclimatization climb & portage: Climb from Nido de Condores to Berlin Camp with loads. Return to Nido de Condores*
Day 12: Climb from Nido de Condores to Berlin camp
Day 13: Summit day. Climb from Berlin camp to Aconcagua Summit, return to Berlin Camp
Day 14: Descend from Berlin camp to Plaza de Mulas
Day 15: Descend from Plaza de Mulas to Puente de Inca and straight to Mendoza, hotel
Day 16: Bad weather day
Day 17: Bad weather day
Day 18: Bad weather
Day 19: Trip ends

*High altitude porters are employed to carry group equipment up the mountain. Clients will be required to carry all of their personal equipment. Typically, this will weigh 15KG.

Mules will transport all equipment as far as Plaza de Mulas.